India-Pakistan Ties

Pakistan denies it stopped diplomats from meeting Sikh pilgrims, accuses India of twisting facts

Islamabad said it was ironic that Delhi was making these allegations, claiming it had violated the 1974 protocol on pilgrimages twice this year.

Pakistan on Sunday rejected as baseless India’s allegations that its diplomats, including the high commissioner, were denied access to meet Sikh pilgrims visiting the country on Baisakhi on Saturday. India’s Ministry of External Affairs had said the consular team was also denied entry into Gurdwara Panja Sahib on Saturday, where it was scheduled to meet the pilgrims.

In a statement, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “ironic” that the Indian government was accusing Pakistan of violating the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines when New Delhi had violated the pact two times this year by denying visas to Pakistani pilgrims.

Islamabad also accused New Delhi of twisting the facts and presenting “a wrongful version” of the events from Saturday “to mislead the public opinion”. It said that the Evacuee Trust Property Board had advised the Indian High Commission against attending Baisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Panja Sahib because it had “noticed strong resentment among segments of Sikh yatris...protesting the release in India of some film on Baba Guru Nanak Devji”. The board said the “cancellation took place with mutual understanding”.

A group of around 1,800 pilgrims reached Pakistan on April 12 under the bilateral agreement on facilitating religious visits. India claimed that its consular team was “denied access” to them when they arrived at the Wagah Railway Station, calling it an “inexplicable diplomatic discourtesy” in violation of the Vienna Convention.

The Vienna Convention outlines the framework for diplomatic relations between countries.

On March 19, Pakistan had accused India of violating the protocol by denying visas to 503 pilgrims who wanted to attend the Urs festival in Ajmer, Rajasthan, from March 19 to March 29. The event commemorates the death anniversary of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had also said that 192 pilgrims from the country were denied visas earlier in 2018 and could not participate in the event commemorating the death anniversary of Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia in New Delhi from January 1 to January 8.

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